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UAOL-BIRD                                              149
before making any attempt to understand the Indian people. The
utter lack of any factual and atmospheric background is the cause
of the unreality of so many debates about India, whether they are
in the House of Commons or the columns of the American pres<>,
Xothing could be more ludicrous than the spectacle of elderly
British liberals gravely applying the principles of Western de-
mocracy to a country in which democracy has aboiit as much
hope of surviving as a clump of Scottish heather in the desert of
Thar. Xothing could be more grotesque than the determination
of American publicists, such s<> the bucolic Miss Pearl Buck, to
talk about the Indian "people/ as though there were no difference
between a Gond aboriginal a Bombay boxwallah, a Punjab
Chaprasi, a Madra^i lawyer, a Travancore untouchable, a Sikh
warrior, a Pathan moneylender, Mr. Gandhi and His Highness
The Aga Khan.
Any debate on the intricacies of Indian politics by men who
have never been east of Suez must inevitably be as futile as would
be a debate of the affairs of London County Council by men who
had never been west of Karachi.
However, we have now reached a stage where wu have at least
a rough idea of the background against which the major figures of
Indian politics move and have their being. Among these figures
Mrs. Naidu stands out, and always has stood out, in high relief.
Sixty-four years old, she has lived—to put it mildly—a full life*
She was the first Indian woman to be elected President of Con-
gress ; wherever the fight had been the thickest she was to be found,
fluttering a gaily-bordered Saree, with feminine defiance, in the
face of the British raj. She had been swept into laihi charges, had
held Gandhi's hand at some of the most crucial moments of his
career, and...while finding time to produce a considerable
family, had written a great deal of enchanting poetry. One feels
a temptation to say, with Pater, that "all these things had been to
her as the sound of flutes,' but perhaps that would be going a
little too far. The fact remains that she still gives the impression
of being a young woman. She has allure, and she knows it.